Four very small, very simple words were all Frankie Policelli needed to describe Stony Brook’s approach as it begins life in a new conference:
“We can finally compete,” Policelli, a Stony Brook forward, said during the Colonial Athletic Association’s Men’s Basketball Media Day Wednesday, which also served as something of a welcoming party for the conference’s four newest schools.
Joining Stony Brook as CAA member schools are Hampton, Monmouth and North Carolina A&T.
“We really looked at three specific factors as it related to institutions that were interested in joining the CAA,” said Joe D’Antonio, the conference commissioner. “Number one, there needed to be a geographical fit. Number two, there needed to be a commitment to academics, both from a student-athlete standpoint as well as institutional standpoint. And number three, there needed to be a commitment to the overall improvement of the athletic department and the well-being of the student-athletes that [compete] at that institution going forward into the future.”
For Stony Brook, it represents something of a sea change following a tumultuous 2021-22 academic year which saw the athletic programs barred from competing in America East Conference postseason play in response to the school’s announcement it was joining the CAA.
“It was hard for the players because it really wasn’t any of their doing,” Stony Brook coach Geno Ford said. “Sometimes things are out of your control and you feel like you’re being punished or something’s happening to you and you didn’t really deserve it.”
Indeed, and now the Seawolves are entering their debut season in the Colonial excited about the challenge it presents.
“There’s not a lot of difference between the CAA and any league you want to put up against,” Ford said. “There [are] good coaches, good players, great venues, great campuses. The atmospheres on the road are going to be much improved from what we’ve experienced here in the past.”
Colonial Athletic Association coaches picked the Seawolves to finish ninth in the preseason poll. Towson was the unanimous selection to win the CAA. Following Towson were Hofstra, Delaware, Charleston, UNC-Wilmington, Northeastern, Drexel, William & Mary, Stony Brook, Monmouth, North Carolina A&T, Elon, and Hampton.
“Polls are polls,” Ford said. “I’m not real concerned.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Hofstra.
Along with selecting the Pride to finish second in the conference, the coaches picked Aaron Estrada to repeat as the Player of the Year, and named him to the preseason First Team. Sophomore Darlinstone Dubar was named to the conference’s Honorable Mention Team.
It isn’t hard to figure out why conference coaches hold Estrada in high esteem. The 6-3 redshirt senior led a Pride squad which finished with a 21-11 overall record and 13-5 in conference play in scoring (18.5 points per game), minutes played (35.1 per game), assists (160 for the season), steals (49), and was second in rebounds per game (5.7).
As a result, Estrada was named to the conference’s and the All-Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association First Teams; was a finalist for the Lou Henson National Player of the Year Award; and was an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American.
“He puts in a lot of work,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said.